I had such hopes of this when I started. "If the reader be not pleased with the following sketch of early American customs, he should blame a certainI had such hopes of this when I started. "If the reader be not pleased with the following sketch of early American customs, he should blame a certain ancient sofa, and not the author! For it was the said sofa that caused these lines to be written, and it came about in this way: Among some old furniture handed down in our family is an unusually long mahogany sofa, upon which, says tradition, General Lafayette frequently sat when he came to take tea. Tradition further alleged that in the memoirs of some Frenchman (name not given( this fact was set forth at length. Curiosity to read what this unknown had to say upon the subject led through such pleasant literary country that soon the original purpose of the quest gave way to a constantly growing interest in these memoirs and records of the last quarter of the eighteenth century, from the battle of Lexington till the transfer of the Federal Government to the city of Washington."
He wrote a survey of memoirs because of a sofa! I felt as if I'd found a kindred spirit. (Maybe it was actually a recamier, who knows.)
Unfortunately, the book is not a reproduction of full memoirs, to even substantial extracts, but rather just snippets, interspersed with the author's rather jingoistic commentary. (This was first published in 1915.) Serious students of history are best using this as a guide to some of the available material, or as a fallback source if they are unable to access the originals.
The first chapter becomes rather wearing; it is an introduction and can probably be safely skipped. The most valuable information, a list of the diarists, can be found as a concise list at the back of the book.
List of chapters: (view spoiler)[Our French Visitors; Dancing, visits, music, cards, conversation, etiquette; Dress and French fashions. Courtship and marriage; What our ancestors ate and drank; American physical traits and temperament, and the effect of our climate; City life, and especially in Philadelphia, Charleston, and Boston; City Life (continued). Newport, Providence, Hartford, New Haven, Albany, Baltimore, New York, New Orleans, and Washington; Country life; Travels - ites conveniences and inconveniences; Education, colleges newspapers, interest in public affairs; Religious observances; The learned progressions: Law, medicine, architecture, etc.; Labor, Manufacture, Merchant Marine, and foreign trade; The allied armies; Bibliography. (hide spoiler)]...more
Very worth reading if you are at all into geeking out over the history of space exploration. Made me think of the Firestar series in so many ways. (WhVery worth reading if you are at all into geeking out over the history of space exploration. Made me think of the Firestar series in so many ways. (Which, again, if you are at all into space exploration SF, you ought to read.) The author spent his early career at the facility that became LARC. That added an extra element of interest for me, because I've been there. (Periodically they hold an open house — every few years — and if you are at all into what I've already mentioned twice, you should try to go.)...more
A very detailed, very focused, densely cited, and somewhat dry examination of Benjamin Franklin's interest in Italy, and Italian interest in BenjaminA very detailed, very focused, densely cited, and somewhat dry examination of Benjamin Franklin's interest in Italy, and Italian interest in Benjamin Franklin as a scientist and diplomat. Probably of interest mainly to Franklin specialists or people writing papers....more
I read books about art because it's important to me that there be beauty in the world. And so I also read books about people who felt the same way andI read books about art because it's important to me that there be beauty in the world. And so I also read books about people who felt the same way and who spent their lives working with or in or around art. This would be an interesting read even if the subject hadn't spent her life passing as a white woman and concealing her black ancestry. But she did, and Ardizzone has researched that and provided vast quantities of background about the history of passing as well as facts about the life of her subject....more
This is more "high school and earlier" level, but it might have some relevance for ... lots of topics in American history, really. So it's potentiallyThis is more "high school and earlier" level, but it might have some relevance for ... lots of topics in American history, really. So it's potentially worth flipping through. My main quibble is that it isn't very specific about where the information in the writeups that accompany the maps comes from. There is a source listing but no footnoting or other specificity....more
I was pleased with the beginning. I felt like Weintraub had the genuine storyteller's touch; that's important in a book like this, which is about entertaining as well as informing the reader. But by the third chapter, my enthusiasm had cooled. The mom-and-apple-pie jingoism level had risen sharply. Maybe it's cynical of me, but when I read that two baseball players who were serving in World War II died so that future little boys could play baseball ... I have a problem with that on so many levels.
This has a nice bibliography, but the footnotes are limited, so it's not entirely clear where information is being sourced from....more
An excellent look at a forgotten minor figure in American history. Without any formal training, Edward S. Curtis recorded the cultural practices and lAn excellent look at a forgotten minor figure in American history. Without any formal training, Edward S. Curtis recorded the cultural practices and languages of many Native American peoples whose numbers were dwindling, using pictures and text. He also made an early epic film, In the Land of the Head Hunters.
I was more than halfway through before I felt the need to check any of the endnotes. Here, at least, Egan writes authentically and believably, and in a way that holds the interest of the reader. This book contextualizes the studio work of Curtis fairly well, but probably only if you are aware of the names mentioned. I was fortunate enough to have seen the Impressionism in a New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz exhibit before reading this, and that helped. But there are a few brief mentions of figures such as Bernhard Berenson and Alfred Stieglitz that probably don't make much sense if you don't already know who they are.
Still, this is a good read, and an eye-opening (and sometimes cringe-inducing) look into how Euro-Americans perceived Native Americans. Everything seems to be well sourced, though page numbers instead of just chapter headings would have been helpful....more